The Art Cops on Art Basel 2012's Worst Offenders and Attempting to Bust Banksy for Crimes Against Art
Officers Matt Vis and Tony Campbell of the International Art Police (and also of New Orleans-based collaborative art duo, Generic Art Solutions) travel to art fairs and galleries around the world with ticket books in hand, ready to write up those violating their "rules of art."
Cultist rode along with the pair as they discussed 2012's worst criminals and the challenge of ticketing Banksy.
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|You're welcome, Miami.|
"Lots of tickets this year," Officer Vis told us during our ride-along. When reflecting on the worst of the violators, one name came immediately to mind:
"Damien Hirst. He has a ticket from about five years ago that he never paid. And his titles are too pretentious, so there's that, too.
"Cindy Sherman. We've been looking for her. The titles are unimaginative," Vis said. "Really, though, 'Untitled' was one of the biggest violations this year and was all over the place. What's worse is when it's 'Untitled' and then parenthetically '(blue dog)' or something. What?"
But their most elusive quarry is that great white, stenciled whale, Banksy. And with Stephan Kezsler's controversial display of site-removed Bansky wall pieces at CONTEXT, this seemed like the perfect time for the Art Cops to make a bust. The offending work? Banksy's Kissing Coppers, depicting two English constables smooching. The problem? No one knows who Banksy is.
|courtesy of Jonathan Ferrara Gallery|
Most reactions the Art Cops get are positive but occasionally, they hear criticism that they do little more than get their pictures taken.
"There's that, to some degree," Officer Vis confessed. "But we provide a legitimate service. It started as performance art but now it's more than that."
And so the Art Cops found Kezsler amidst his Banksys. Officers Vis and Campbell had already filled out the ticket and handed it directly to Kezsler.
"We have an infraction for one of your Banksys, the Kissing Coppers," Vis said.
Kezsler clearly felt secure in his fortress of reclaimed walls.
"Wait, wait," he snapped at Vis and Campbell. "What is this bullshit?"
So Vis tried to explain what the Art Cops do but, Vis said, this only proceeded to make Kezsler more angry.
"So what's this ticket for?" Kezsler asked.
Officer Campbell leaned forward and snarled, "We're cops and we don't think it's funny."
Kezsler snapped back, "Well, you're not funny."